Singer/songwriter Andrew Salgado was living his dream last week as he collaborated with other musicians and worked toward inking a record deal in Nashville, the Mecca for aspiring country music stars.
The Darien native left the sights and sounds of the Music City behind on Wednesday, driving all the way back from Nashville to perform for a hometown audience at Darien Community Park that night.
The setting was perfect for a summer concert. A warm breeze wafted through the trees as about 100 concert-goers ranging in age from 4 to 94 settled into lawn chairs or reclined on blankets spread out on the grass, and moms and dads dipped into picnic baskets as their kids played nearby.
A hush fell over the crowd as Salgado stepped up to the microphone and began strumming his acoustic guitar and singing one of his original songs. The young musician sang and played his heart out, chatting with the crowd between songs.
“Any country fans out there?” Salgado asked. “Can you hear me way in the back? How about the guy in the blue shirt? Wave if you can hear me.”
Well into his second song, the sound system lost power -- no microphone, no amplification for his acoustic guitar.
Seemingly unfazed, Salgado joked, “I guess this is what it means to perform unplugged.”
His crew kept scrambling to fix the electrical glitch, but after Salgado’s song went silent for the third time, the young musician simply grinned, unplugged from the broken sound system and strolled out into the crowd, guitar in hand. He wasn’t about to disappoint the audience he had just driven all the way from Nashville to entertain.
“C’mon, gather ‘round,” he urged the crowd. “Form a circle right here,” he said, gesturing toward an open, grassy area near the park pavilion.
And gather they did, laughing as they collected their lawn chairs and blankets, picnic coolers and baby strollers. Moms and dads, toddlers and teens, grandmas and grandpas all formed a circle around the young performer.
The young musician wandered through the appreciative audience, playing and singing as a group of young children tagged along behind him. With no sound amplification, the country singer had to push his voice to new limits and strum the strings of his guitar extra hard, just to be heard above the wind -- and, as dusk approached, a chorus of cicadas.
Halfway into one of Salgado’s original songs, a guitar string broke. He just grinned, shook his head, and kept playing.
Then another string broke. He laughed and threw up his hands. And the crowd laughed right along with him. With no sound system, and now, without a working guitar, it appeared the concert was over.
But then, a woman spoke up from the crowd. “I could go get my husband’s guitar.”
Marta Makowski said she lived nearby and could be back with her husband Adam’s guitar in 15 minutes.
“Do you want to stay while she gets the guitar?” Salgado asked the crowd. They answered in unison with a resounding “Yes!”
The performer broke into a good-natured banter with the audience and began leading an a cappella sing-along. “Just like around the campfire,” he joked.
The crowd joined the singer in renditions of The Temptations’ classic, “My Girl,” and a couple of Elvis tunes, “You Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Hound Dog” and “All Shook Up.”
Salgado strolled through the audience, joking with the dads, charming the moms, playing with the kids and entertaining the patient group as best he could. And the crowd appeared to love it – and him. Nobody went home.
After nearly 20 minutes, someone shouted, “Here comes the guitar,” as Marta hurried toward the musician, clutching a black guitar case. The crowd cheered as Salgado began tuning the borrowed instrument, strumming ever-so-gently on its strings.
And like a true professional, he played and sang until 8:30, when the concert was scheduled to end.
Embraced by neighbors and new-found fans, Andrew Salgado graduated from aspiring country singer to seasoned entertainer, all in the span of a couple of hours on a warm summer night in Darien.
I get the feeling that a night the young musician perhaps would like to forget, at least for now, will be an evening that everybody in the audience will always remember.
And, who knows? Someday, those audience members may be able to say they once saw country superstar Andrew Salgado perform, unplugged.
Editor’s note: Andrew Salgado will perform with his new band at Darien Fest at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 8. To learn more about Salgado and for a list of his upcoming tour dates, click here.